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Budding Green Businesses Inside the Cloud

Posted by on Jul 8, 2013

Cloud computing has won the loyalty of businesses and enterprises looking to leverage technology in their favor for cost-effective storage and sync solutions. Switching to the cloud could save enterprises big bucks in reduced server, staffing, and maintenance needs. But another often-overlooked aspect of savings through the cloud can be found in energy use. For companies wanting to green their image and practices, the cloud could be a fiscally sound and powerful way to reduce energy needs.

Going Green with the Cloud

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According to recent findings in a study commissioned through Microsoft and done by Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy, cloud storage and sync can radically cut back on an enterprise’s net energy use. This study analyzed greenhouse gas emissions and overall energy use for both cloud-hosted and onsite deployment methods for applications like sharing and email. The smaller the enterprise, the more the organization stood to benefit by employing cloud technology. Organizations with 100 or fewer users could cut their carbon footprint by up to 90% through switching to a secure public cloud, rather than relying on local servers, which typically only run at a measly 10% of capacity. Larger enterprises can save around 30% by making the move to the cloud and a case study involving a larger enterprise found that 32% of the company’s net energy use and carbon output could be reduced, simply by moving the bulk of the company’s email users to the cloud.

The Green Cloud Industry

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The research group Pike Research also conducted a study on the green potential of cloud storage and sync. The study found that mass adoption of the cloud could provide upwards of a 38% reduction in global data center energy use by the year 2020. Consolidating data centers through the cloud allows for strategic usage, capitalizing fully on available capabilities and streamlining processes for better and more energy-efficient practices. According to Andrew Hatton, head of IT at Greenpeace UK, “Currently, cloud computing may be accounting for just 2-3% of total electricity used, but it is growing rapidly.” While some players like Microsoft, have been implicated by Greenpeace, others have earned the loyalty of environmental techies and enterprises that seek out ways to cut cost while reaping the benefits of green branding. Facebook’s IT infrastructure currently boasts complete use of renewable energy sources and only 2% of Apple’s carbon footprint can be traced to IT facilities.

With rapid climate change and a consumer base that rewards environmentally sound practices while punishing polluters, green cloud technologies are more important than ever for enterprises of all sorts and sizes. According to the UN, mobile phones will outnumber the human population by the end of 2014 and mobile traffic is expected to increase by 1300% within four years. Keeping up with the energy demands of this growth is a challenge, but one that cloud storage and sync services can meet. Cloud services can help save enterprises money in big ways previously not thought of before. Server rooms, large IT staff, and big air conditioning budgets are no longer necessary when using a public deployment model for the cloud. And the cloud even helps cut back on the need for office supplies like flash drives, CDs, paper, and ink. In the long run, switching to the cloud helps cut back on energy from manufacturing to the service sector.

Energy Savings through the Cloud

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Eric Masanet, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern, says, “We can’t fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to assessing sustainability. We need numbers – hard data – to properly analyze how cloud computing compares to how computing is done now. Well-thought-out analysis is especially important with new technology, which can have unforeseen effects. Our public model allows us to look forward and make informed decisions. What we found overall is that by hosting services on the cloud, as opposed to locally, the savings are pretty robust.” In his study conducted with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he found that switching basic productivity and email functions to the cloud could save around 23 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy for millions of workers in the US. Essentially, that amount of energy could power the entire city of Los Angeles for a year, showing just how much the world could save if enterprises made the cost-effective switch to the cloud.

SpiderOak Blue

For enterprises looking to green their practices with the cloud, SpiderOak Blue offers fully private “public” and onsite server options for full flexibility. Choosing the right third party cloud service can be a challenge as many services on the market have security gaps that leave private data vulnerable to third party attacks. But SpiderOak sets itself apart from the rest of the market by providing a fully private cloud service featuring all of the benefits of cloud storage along with 100% data anonymity.

SpiderOak protects sensitive enterprise data through 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices (SpiderOak never hosts plaintext data). SpiderOak Blue’s private cloud services are available for enterprises on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, making this one of the only flexible cross-platform solutions on the market.

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